Kansai's Hidden Treasures: Uji


A magnificent vermillion temple rising from a lake full of lily pads. The oldest still-existing shrine in Japan. Revered green tea. It is only in Uji where you can find them all.  
 
Just 20 minutes by train from Kyoto Station, and an hour from Osaka, Uji is a wonderful day-trip for those looking to explore more of Japan’s deep cultural heritage and culinary delights. These are some of the highlights that you should definitely check out whenever you visit: 
 
Byodoin Temple
The visually stunning temple is easily one of Uji’s most recognizable spots, most likely because it is featured on the back of the 10-yen coin. Built in the Buddhist Pure Land style as a countryside villa, it was converted into a temple in 1053. Its most distinctive feature is its Phoenix Hall (see in the picture above), named as such due to the two phoenix statues at the corners of its roof. Its treasure house also displays a wide assortments of the temple’s artifacts, many of which are considered national treasure and important cultural properties. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see. 
 
Tips: 
-       The 300 meter walkway up the temple (Omotesando) is lined with several shops perfect for souvenir shopping and testing some of Uji’s famous green tea.  
 
Ujigami Shrine 
The oldest still-existing shrine in Japan, Ujigami Shrine is an essential stop for any shrine-enthusiast. Considered Byodoin’s “guardian shrine”, it was also named as UNESCO World Heritage site. While not as physically grand as other complexes, it has retained a deep spiritual power. Close by is Uji shrine, the lower counterpart of Ujigami which was separated into its own shrine in the Meiji Period. 
 
Tips:
-       Keep an eye out for Ujigami’s adorable rabbit-themed souvenirs!
 
Uji Tea
As Uji tea is considered to be one of the best green tea in Japan, a visit to Uji would be incomplete without a taste of it. Several restaurants in the area serve green tea-flavored dishes, such as matcha-flavored soba noodles, sweets, and ice-cream. Tsuen tea shop, located just across from the Keihan Uji station, is considered Japan’s oldest tea shop and has a wide variety of green tea to choose from. 
 
Getting to Uji
-       JR Nara Line to JR Uji Station. 
-       Keihan Uji Line to Keihan Uji Station 
 
Tips to Save Money: 
-       For those interested in tea ceremonies: Taihoan, a tea house located just a short walk away from Byodoin Temple, offers a traditional tea ceremony experience for just ¥500. They will also provide a wagashi sweet to pair with the tea, so it is a wonderful stop after a day of sightseeing. 
-       Many shops allow for you to sample their teas, so ask for one before committing to a purchase. 
-       The shops off the main Omotesando area are significantly cheaper and less crowded. They are also good bets during lunchtime when wait times can exceed an hour at some of the more popular places near Byodoin Temple.
 
Enjoy!

Eri Lin